on September 29, 2011
I've owned this camera for a few weeks now, so I just wanted write a few notes about this camera that get neglected.
1. The image stabilization is only good up to 4 fps, but the default multi shot modes are 5 fps or 3 fps. To get 4 fps, you have to use a custom menu setting.
2. Always shoot in multi shot mode. Single shot mode will cause camera lag (my guess is that it waits for the SD card to finish writing in single shot mode). This lowers your shot to shot times down to about 1.5 fps as the camera will just ignore your shutter press. Shooting in multi shot mode solves this problem, at the expense of not always seeing your next shot.
3. Buy the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens if you want to take any indoor shots without a flash. The kit lens, at f3.5, is just not fast enough indoors. Your shots will come out at 1600 ISO and contain blur or noise, depending upon your noise filtering setting, usually both, because f3.5, just doesn't cut it. Okay, that might be a little harsh - if you reduce the photos down to 25% of their original size, they will be good enough to put up on a web page, but you wouldn't want to print them. In comparison, the 20mm f1.7 lens takes great indoor shots.
4. Nearly all the pictures you see on websites that review this camera required custom menu settings. Custom menu settings require information from the manual before you figure them out. I must have played with the custom settings for a solid two hours with the manual by my side, before I got things close to the way I wanted them.
5. The auto focus speed using the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens is slower than with the 14-42 kit lens. While the 20mm focuses nearly instantly in bright light, it can take up to 2 seconds to focus in low light. Comparatively, the 14-42mm has a worst case focusing time of about half a second in low light.
6. Buy a grip for this camera. I got a small Flipbac G2 and it made a world of difference.
7. These days I would recommend the fast focusing Panasonic/Leica 25mm/f1.4 (or Olympus 45mm f1.8) over the 20mm/f1.7 for low light photography.
on September 24, 2011
Note about Olympus service. It turns out that my camera had an issue with taking picture at fast shutter speed (1/4000s). I called the service and sent it in. It was fixed by week's end, and was shipped it out by 2nd Day Air. It was all for free as my camera is still under warranty. I did not get a refurbished unit; I got mine back. When I tested my 'fixed' camera, I found everything was working as expected and no more problems at high shutter speed. Big kudos for Olympus service!
One key feature I forgot to mention is the in-body image stablization (IBIS). Olympus has the IBIS whereas Panasonic only supports the IS built into the lens. There are PROs and CONs of IBIS. However this comes in handy in many cases, and I prefer camera having IBIS where some lenses do not come with IS built-in (OIS). Some of my lenses do not have OIS, and if I do not use IBIS on Olympus, images would not be as sharp. On the other hand, people say that IBIS is not ideal for the video recording. I have not noticed much, but I can see how.
On the other hand, Olympus will announce E-M5 (OM-D family) this week. This one will support 5 axis IS (still an IBIS) which is expected to be much better than the IBIS that current models have. Some on the DPREVIEW forum say that this one will be better than OIS... we'll have to wait for some product review for the verdict.
Important Update (11/21/2011)
Firmware version 1.1 is now available from Olympus. It was surprising from a company that is going through a financial trouble :) The firmware version 1.1 is supposed to address an issue with EyeFi (Wifi SD + memory) card. Although I do not use the EyeFi card, I thought I will give it a try and updated my camera with some worries as one reviewer on DPREVIEW.com reported that camera became 'brick' after the update.
I used 'Olympus Digital Camera Updater' software that came with my camera. I used my Mac Mini to update the firmware. Everything took less than 2 minutes, and I got large "OK" sign on the LCD display. Upon recycling the power, the camera reported firmware version 1.1 correctly. I took about 50 shots after the update, and so far so good.
My original review
This is my fourth camera purchase this year... yet this is the best one. My other three cameras were point-and-shoot cameras that gave me some good photos but in-door shots with high iso gave me very grainy images. Nikon P300 is pretty good with F1.8; however image sensor was little too small and that results in lower image quality in some occasion.
I also have Canon T1i which takes photos with really good image quality; however I run into the portability issue. I'm not as big of a photo enthusiast (I know... I just love buying new camera) and I do not feel comfortable carrying my Canon T1i everywhere. It is simply too bulky.
My definition of 'perfect' camera is one that I can take most everywhere and take photos with good image quality in every situation.
I did a lot of research for the 'perfect' camera, and I quickly came down to the following selections:
1) Sony NEX family - Sony NEX 3, 5, C3, 5N, and 7.
These are wonderful camera. Small, and versatile, and especially with APS-C size image sensor, image quality (IQ) rivals regular dSLRs. However the limitations are the fact that they use Sony proprietary lenses and there are limited number of NEX lenses.
2) Samsung N100/N200
These are similar to Sony NEX. I haven't seen them in person; however these should deliver similar IQ with the APS-C size sensors. However they do have the same issue of using Samsung proprietary lens mount + format.
3) Nikon 1, Pentax Q, and Fujifilm X100
Ok, Fujifilm X100 has APS-C size sensor; however it has a single fixed lens on the camera. Good lens, but you cannot replace lens. Nikon and Pentax recently announced their new compact system cameras, however their system uses smaller size sensor. Pentax uses even smaller and Nikon uses sensor about 1/2 of Micro Four Thirds. I like Nikon but I felt the lens collection + size sensor was disappointment at this time.
4) Then there are Micro Four Thirds cameras... these include Olympus e-P1,P2,P3, e-PL1,PL2,PL3, and e-PM1 and Panasonic GF1, GF2, and GF3, and other G series cameras.
Micro Four Thirds cameras can use any lenses that adhere to the Micro Four Thirds standards. Therefore there are more lens selections available at the time of my research than any other compact system cameras.
My decision was more of my budget and my future direction... I want to build my lens library first; however I wanted to get best value for my budget. In my opinion, Olympus e-PM1 was the best choice.
My selection of Olympus E-PM1 was for its compact size and versatility of the camera. yes, it may not have all physical control buttons. That was problem when I was looking at the camera; however it's not as bad as I thought. You can get to the settings quickly and you actually have control of most of settings that you can think of... And you can easily set your focus area, if you don't want the camera to choose for you :)
Based on my research Olympus E-PM1 has pretty much the same hardware as more expensive and little bigger E-PL3. This means that it now has new dual core image processor (TruePic VI) and very fast auto-focus system. This all means that this Olympus E-PM1 is very responsive and good performer in everyday use.
It's been about a week and I took almost 900 photos with single battery charge(battery life is good). I now have Panasonic 20mm F1.7 pancake lens on the camera and that one is really good for photo taking. (I won't recommend it for video.. due to noise issue). With my F/1.7 lens, I haven't really had need for a flash on the camera. In fact, I have not even tried it yet. Camera takes good IQ and very fast auto focus. I love how i can control so many settings on the camera. I don't think I had this much fun with my Canon T1i.
NOTE: For Mac users out there, this ACHVD format on 1080i video would be little problem as there are no native support for the format yet.
Pros for Olympus E-PM1
- Compact size (smaller than other micro four thirds)
- Good Image Quality (comparable to dSLRs)
- Fast auto focus speed
- large number of available lenses (micro four thirds)
- Available Hot Shoe; you can use external flash
Cons for Olympus E-PM1
- no built-in flash (having something is better than nothing)
- not pocketable, unless you are talking about your winter jacket
- Limited availability of button control; it's ok but for some this would be strong 'con"
- Video format (ACHVD MTS format is not for computer... Mac software not as widely available)
- Built-in image stabilization may not work perfectly for the video; it works well for still images.
- (UPDATE 11/15/2011) It may be my camera, however I cannot use shutter speed 1/3200 or 1/4000s. Images get too dark at the bottom of picture. However I rarely need these shutter speed; therefore I do not see this is a show stopper.
* Image Sensor size discussion
Here are some measure of image sensors used on various digital cameras today:
Typical point-and-shoot, sensor=1/2.33", sensor size=~28.5mm^2, crop factor=5.62
Advanced point-and-shoot, sensor=1/1.6", sensor size=~48.6mm^2, crop factor=4.3
micro-four-thirds, sensor=MFT, sensor size=~225mm^2, crop factor=2
Canon dSLR, sensor=APS-C, sensor size=~329mm^2, crop factor=1.6
Other dSLR (Nikon,Sony), sensor=APS-C, sensor size=~369mm^2, crop factor=1.5
Olympus E-PM1 has micro four thirds format sensor, i.e. it has surface area of 225mm^2 which is significantly larger than typical point-and-shoot camera. Olympus E-PM1 has more than 4.6x bigger image sensor to pick up more lights than advanced point-and-shoot camera.
* Comparison between Point-and-Shoot and Olympus E-PM1
Olympus E-PM1, as a micro four thirds camera, has significantly bigger MOS sensor and you can go to ISO1600 and still have good image quality. I posted an example of image that was taken with ISO1600 with F11. This still has fairly good image quality even with high ISO. Of course, the image quality would be less accurate in dimly lit condition. However Olympus E-PM1 still has much better image quality than other point-and-shoot camera. I compared picture taken with Olympus E-PM1 and Nikon P300, and Olympus wins hands down.
* Olympus E-PM1 User Interface
As noted above, Olympus E-PM1 does not have as many manual control buttons. You don't even have 'mode' button. P/A/S/M has to be selected via menu button. Although this may be problem for some users, many users will find it adequate. There are even customizable buttons that you can assign "video record" button as "DOF preview". Other controls, such as changing ISO, aperture value, shutter speed, are fairly simple. Olympus E-PM1 gives you so much control over camera settings.
* RAW image format (Updated 11/15/2011)
Olympus E-PM1 has good RAW image setting (.ORF format). Included Olympus Viewer 2 software can be used to develop RAW images into JPG format images.
I am happy to report that the following software support E-PM1 ORF format:
- Adobe Element 9 with the latest update (ACR 6.5 and later)
- Aperture 3.2.1
Olympus E-PM1 is a solid camera with good functionalities. It is small enough to be almost pocketable yet provides many advanced functionalities that rivals entry level dSLRs. As a micro four thirds camera, there are good set of lenses from multiple manufacturers, and Olympus has built very responsive camera with good image quality (IQ) sensor with this E-PM1. This camera should appeal to those of you looking to move up to more advanced camera from their point-and-shoot camera or someone with dSRLs looking for a smaller, competent camera. I do admit that this camera is not 'perfect' camera; however this camera is one of the best value for a compact system camera today.
on September 26, 2011
I've been using E-PM1 for a couple of weeks. It's very nicely build and appears to be metal front, back or sides and the top (E-PL2 has only metal front panel). The menu is cleverly designed so you won't miss the additional external controls all that much. Rec button and "right" & "down" buttons can be customized. E.g., you can set Rec button to serve as AEL/AFL, AF/MF switch, "Magnify", "Tele-converter", etc. In addition, if you turn off "keep WB warm" in the menu (it's on by default), the colors will be much better especially indoors. Don't forget to dial flash exposure compesation "+1EV" (the camera will remember this setting) for proper exposure because the bundled flash is always in semi-bounce position when activated.
Overall, great little camera with super fast AF (incl. continous AF in HD video), fast buffer clearing with a huge number of customizations available. 5.5fps burst mode and art filter bracketing is really cool. So far my basic settings: Noise filter off, "keep WB warm" off, Sharpening -1, Natural picture mode, right button - ISO, down button - WB, LSF jpeg, Rec button set as AF/MF switch, LCD set to max brightness. Also, don't forget to enable SCP (Super control panel) by clicking OK, then pressing Info in live view mode. This will allow you a one-click access to all important settings for changes on the go. E-PM1 feels like a very thoroughly designed camera with well thought out menu. It does require some setting up to do initially for best resutls. It has a hot shoe and supports standard flashes as well as wireless flashes (with bundled flash attached). Buil-in Image stabilization is very effective especially with Panasonic 20mm lens you can easily shoot sharp pictures of non-moving objects at 1/10s w/o any blur. Priced at $499 it's definately the best value for the money in the m43 format.
Update: After 2 months of heavy use, it's hard for me to go back to E-PL2 now (my back up camera). E-PM1 trumps it in every way: better looking images (due to outstanding AWB performance), much faster AF and face detect especially in low light or when shooting from a distance. Much improved shutter lag and very useful 5.5 fps burst mode. The bundled flash is tiny and provides great results; I don't hesitate to leave it attached most of the time (good in the sun too to lift the shadows).
However, IBIS is disappointing compared to E-PL2 so I simply disabled it (I'm mostly taking pictures of people anyway and prefer at least 1/30s so no biggie. I heard E-P3 IBIS is way better - different implementation).
I sold Panny 20mm because this lens is slow and noisy to focus (especially in low light it's often inaccurate) and it doesn't take advantage of E-PM1's fast AF at all. Panny 14mm works way better for me including in low light (good DoF in tight indoor spaces). I used to keep Panny 20 for shallow DoF but now I got Oly 45mm f1.8 which is way better at that.
Absolutely breathing pictures from E-PM1+Oly 45mm combo with creamy smooth bokeh and surgical sharpness in plane of focus (have to use e-portrait function to smoothen the skin, LOL). 35 small AF points covering the whole screen are indispensable when shooting wide open with this lens. Also, E-PM1 eye detect is very useful for artistic portraits (e.g. the focus is on the left eye).
I really think that with m43 and Oly 45mm (I also recommend ND filter) anyone can now take pro grade shallow DoF (with 3D pop) pictures w/o any training at all because no PP required! E-PM1's jpegs are superb, very colorful and especially fantastic skin tones even under mixed indoor lightning! You can spend hours editing raw files and still not achieve the Oly colors (especially skin tones).
I also wanted to add that E-PM1 is fun to use. Not only because of the cute form factor but also thanks to some useful art filters, e-portrait function, burst mode and full manual control over video. If you use non-TTL external flash, you are no longer restricted to 1/160s flash sync speed. You can now use 1/320s in 4:3 native aspect ratio and 1/400s in 16:9 format. Very few cameras are capable of such high native flash sync speeds (w/o power-reducing FP mode). For those who can't afford Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, Olympus Viewer 2 which is bundled with the camera is a very capable editor albeit works slower than those two. It allows you to apply any of the art filters after the picture is taking (if shot in Raw) and you can apply most of the in-camera settings to your raw images later (picture mode, WB, art filter, noise reduction, sharpness, etc.). It's probably the best free image editor I've ever seen.
on January 25, 2013
Olympus has marketed this camera as a step up for a P&S user, but I think it's really most appealing to the experienced DSLR user who sometimes wants to carry lighter gear.
I use a Nikon D200 DSLR as my main camera, with a lot of legacy manual-focus Nikkor glass. For casual snaps/travelling light I have a Canon G9 P&S, which has good manual controls, but a very small sensor, a poor optical viewfinder and a non-interchangeable zoom lens.
Recently I saw a very good deal on the e-pm1 with 14-42 kit lens, and decided to try it. What might turn off P&S shooters, but really intrigued me, are the extensive options for customization. It takes some time to go through the entire setup menu, but if you are an experienced photographer, it's easily understandable. Finally, what sealed the deal for me was that micro 4/3 cameras (because of their very short flange-focal plane distance) can be fitted with adapters to use just about any DSLR lens you might already have (though of course the FOV will not be the same, except with 4/3 lenses).
What I've learned since buying the camera:
1) Handling is easy after a little acclimation;
2) New users should check the micro 4/3 forum and other websites for user advice/experience to help customize the settings for your particular preferences;
3) An optional electronic viewfinder is really nice to have in bright sunlight, when composing (and even more so, manual focusing) using the LCD can be difficult;
4) Cheap adapters for manual focus lenses work just fine (though expect the lenses to actually focus a bit beyond infinity);
5) Autofocus with the kit lens is very fast, and this lens has a nice throw for manual focusing, too.
Comparing the E-PM1 with the larger and more expensive cameras in the Olympus Pen series, what's really different is that the E-PM1 LCD is not a touchscreen, and it's fixed; there are also fewer buttons, meaning that it will take two or three button pushes rather than one to change mode (PASM), for example. Since I don't use most buttons often anyway (even on the D200), I actually like the less cluttered layout of the Mini.
The E-PM1 is now my favorite camera for urban photography - it's no effort to carry it everywhere I go, on foot or by bike. It doesn't attract attention, and delivers the kind of images I want.
To sum up, a newbie could use this camera as a P&S with interchangeable lenses, and have fun with it. But it has a lot more to offer than that for an experienced photographer - especially one who wants to see, not be seen. The ability to use pretty much any legacy glass is a nice plus for us old-timers.
on June 14, 2012
I bought this camera for a trip, not wanting to carry my Nikon DX DSLR around, but I was worried about image quality with a four-thirds, so I took it out and shot about 50 or 60 pics with it, and the same ones with my Nikon before my trip. I was very impressed. Honestly, even pixel-peeping at full-size images on the computer, the differences are negligible. I have no problem recommending the Olympus to ANYONE. I had no issues finding controls without ever looking at the manual, and, after a little more practice,
I think I could do almost anything with it that I can do with the Nikon.
This camera is ideal for a semi-pro shooting for fun- it's a LOT lighter than a DSLR- and, as much as I really wanted to like the Nikon better, I'd recommend this camera whole-heartedly, while giving the Nikon a list of "but"s. The Olympus, for instance, focuses MUCH faster than the Nikon, even in low-light situations, and on full auto "guesses" more accurately what part of the scene to focus on.
If you're just getting into photography, or want to move up from a point&shoot- you will LOVE this.
More interesting info-bits:
It also has HD video and stereo sound.
before I bought this, I didn't know about the "PenPal" accessory Olympus makes for this, which attaches to the camera for direct mobile uploads
ALSO, when this is hooked up to your TV, most TV remotes can be used to control the camera as well as the TV!
on May 12, 2012
I am really enjoying this camera. The auto focus and shutter response are very fast, color is excellent, and with a little tweaking and getting used to the sparse buttons and wheels, most of the settings you'll use a lot are within quick reach.
Its small size is a giant asset, making it very easy to take with you anywhere. To compliment this, it only takes about two seconds from cold/off to be on and ready to shoot. I have larger than average hands (without a lens I can almost hide the body itself in my hand), and while I wish there was some sort of snap-on grip out there, I don't feel klutzy shooting with it.
The one downside is performance in low light, especially at the higher ISOs -- anything over 1000 and you can pretty much expect some noise. Also, the auto focus speed suffers dramatically, even when it fires a red LED as a sort of flashlight to find something to focus on.
I haven't had occasion to play with the detachable flash much as of yet, but at first blush it works about like any point-and-shoot flash. I know you can adjust it via the camera's setup menus but I haven't toyed with that yet.
I've taken a couple short videos at 1080p and it performs alright, although that feels more like an afterthought. There aren't many options there and the little built-in mic is better than a cell phone and not as good as a low-end camcorder, particularly if there is any wind or background noise.
All in all, it's great for a small camera to carry with you and take great stills under most circumstances. The 4/3 form factor is gaining popularity and there are a LOT of lenses and accessories for this camera, so for the price, you might be able to do better but I can't see how. If I could, I would probably rate it 4.5 stars for the low light performance and vanilla video shooting, but the value overall is so high I can easily rounding it up.
on February 27, 2014
Easy to use as a beginner right out the box. Set everything to Auto and you can take good pictures of still life and non action portraits.
With a little reading, you can take some really good Action/Sports shots. With alot of reading, you can take GREAT shots.
When you want to play around with all the filters, it is a breeze to scroll thru them all. I tend to use a tripod and take a pic, then scroll to the next filter and do it over and over until I have done them all. And I will do this for everything from Portrait to Landscape to Kids playing... Taking notes along the way keeping track of the amount of waiting after I press the button until I hear the click of the picture. It is usually pretty fast, but in my last outing to the Rally in 100 Acres Wood, I somehow went from Sports (8 frames per second) to Landscape/portrait without knowing it and ended up with a 2 second wait and a blurry picture of dirt and gravel and no car. It took all of 2 seconds to fix that back to Sports for the next car and I didn't have any trouble with it the rest of the day.
Battery life is great. But there is not an auto shut off or at least I haven't found it yet. Took 533 pictures, then left it on for 2 hours while we waited for the last rally stage to start. Battery was blinking when I took it out the case and still got 16 - 6 second 1080p movies of cars rocketing by with the night shot filter on.
The date issue: Every time I charge the battery, I have to go to setup and put the date and time in. Not sure about this.
Changing lenses is easy, just don't loose the back cap. The camera didn't come with a cover so you have to always have a lens on to protect the inner workings.
on January 18, 2012
I won't go into the nuts and bolts of what the micro four thirds format is about, as there are plenty of resources out there to consult if you want to learn about system cameras. The short of it is that this is part of a standardized format of system cameras-meaning it has interchangeable lenses-that are meant to put a large image sensor into a small camera body, giving users the ability to get high quality shots without having to carry a DSLR around. The recent trend with these small system cameras seems to market them toward the more casual user looking to step up from the ailing point-and-shoot market to something a bit more capable. Despite the fact that the functionality of these new small system cameras is downplayed (I am sure as to not appear intimidating to people who are not devoted to intensely learning about camera operation and photography), these models, this one included, are entirely capable of taking very, very high quality photos and allow a great amount of control over every aspect of your shot, should you desire it.
Honestly though, with the advances in auto-focus accuracy, white balance metering, etc. etc., these cameras will be just fine when left on "P" mode (automatic settings), or just used with simple shutter or aperture priority modes, since they do a fine job at handling the technical stuff; you don't need to constantly fiddle with them to get excellent results.
If I am doing a more formal photo shoot, I will use my DSLR, but for the kinds of picture I take most of the time, I just want a camera that is fast and ready, and not a chore or liability to carry around. This camera doesn't draw attention to itself, and is very fast- but at the same time, can take serious quality photos that will not leave you disappointed, even if you are a serious photographer with fairly high expectations (just remember to use a good lens if you really want to push things).
I have been a big fan of the m 4/3 format over other small system cameras for some time now. As we are seeing the release of other competing models with larger APS-C sized sensors (the same size as in Canon's non full frame DSLR's), such as the Sony NEX series, there is a temptation to give them a go (the NEX cameras are very nice, by the way, but the lenses leave something to be desired when it comes to sharpness, in my humble opinion).
But... there is another factor to consider- unlike other large sensor, small system cameras, m 4/3 is widely supported in terms of lens availability, so the range and quality of lenses you can get for m 4/3 is in another league compared to proprietary systems such as the ones from Sony and Samsung. If you are familiar with cameras, you will know that the camera body is only part of the equation, and that the quality of the lens used can make a HUGE difference...
Anyway, this is my second m 4/3 camera, and is a replacement for an Olympus EP-2. Olympus has priced this camera (the E-PM1) very, very competitively. In my opinion, this is the best bang for your buck out there with small system cameras. As soon as I learned this camera shared many key electronics with the EP-3, but packed into a smaller package, I knew I had to upgrade. The auto-focus is very, very fast, noticeably more so than the EP-2. I cannot comment on the kit lens this comes with, since I went straight to using the fan favorite Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 with this; though I hear good things about the kit lens.
Another major selling point for me in regards to this camera is the size. I am pretty sure this is the smallest m 4/3 camera out there, and with a pancake lens it is easy to carry around in a coat pocket, unlike the more classically styled, but bulkier, heavier EP-1/2/3.
This model also benefits from having Olympus's "new" type of menu system, which is mercifully simple to use compared to their older cameras.
The image quality is fantastic, as is to be expected from most any modern m 4/3 camera, and if you are used to point and shoots, the pictures this takes will be a revelation in detail and richness. JPEG's look great, and RAW files are even nicer, and like past Olympus cameras, the color rendition is exceptionally pleasing. Because of its compact size, I use this more often than my DSLR, and I would definitely buy it again.
on January 8, 2014
Bought this because the price was down to an incredibly affordable level, and I couldn't resist but to get one just so I could try it out and was thinking of returning if I was going to end up not liking it. Turned out quite the opposite, I like it, a lot ! At first, reviews all over the web mentioned something about the indepth menu system where you can do a ton of settings even to the extend that some cannot be found on an APSC DSLR, but I couldn't find it. I was looking around and found that not only did I have to update it with the latest firmware (from 1.0 to 1.4), I also had to enable that indepth menu. Once I did it, the whole thing became very capable all of the sudden, I was able to use the SCP or Super Control Panel to do many settings on one panel on the LCD screen, an extremely handy feature that was not turned on by default.
The quality of the pictures, JPGs are a bit too soft and muddy, even when I turned off all noise reduction and noise filter, especially in the darker and shadowy areas on a picture, there are a lot of loss of details. The magic is to shoot RAW, but only RAW. You can view it on Windows 7 and beyond PCs by downloading and installing the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack, then use the Windows Photo Gallery viewer to view the ORF files (which is Olympus's RAW format). Once you view your photos shot in RAW(ORF), you'd be amazed in how beautiful the photos are, there are zero to very low loss of details in dark areas, and things just look absolutely stunningly beautiful, and are so good that the result rivals the much costlier DSLRs ( I have a Canon T4i and a Nikon D5100 and a D90). I am absolutely in love with this camera, and have ordered a case for it but still haven't received yet. At this price point, the camera gives me amazing results (in RAW), I don't care much about not having a viewfinder, but even that I could buy as an add-on later if I really want one. I just take this Oly out wherever I go these days, in my jacket's pocket ! You just can't beat the portability of this camera with an M4/3 sensor inside that goes everywhere with you at this price !
on December 30, 2011
I purchased my E-PM1 as an "upgrade" from my 2-year old Olympus E-P1, which of course is a more high end camera in some respects, but was simply getting a bit old and felt slow to me. I put "upgrade" in quotation marks because the E-PM1 isn't really meant as an upgrade from the E-P1 because the two cameras target separate customer audiences. But -- and I hope my review will be able to demonstrate this -- it certainly is possible to take this upgrade path if you've used the E-P1, as long as you're aware of what you're gaining and losing during the upgrade.
Because of this, I'll focus this review on the differences (good and bad) between the old E-P1 and this new E-PM1:
* Much faster focus algorithms - even with the same lenses, the PM1 focuses noticeably faster. With the new lenses, it's faster than any non-dSLR camera I've ever used.
* Extremely lightweight and small - I think I managed to shave off another 100 grams of total weight in my camera bag with this upgrade!
* Much improved kit zoom in terms of size and focus speed/noise. Although the lens mount is in plastic, it doesn't seem like there will be any problems with worn out mount connections.
* Slightly, slightly better high ISO performance, though this is only confirmed by reading professional reviews.
* Up to 5 fps burst mode - really impressive.
* Nicer menu interface (though menu layout is mostly unchanged).
* Comes with a useful snap-on flash that I've really missed on the E-P1 at e.g. very dim party nights. Now I just have to remember to bring it along with the camera. :)
* I definitely preferred the retro design of the E-P1, but I was happy to give it up in favor of a much more portable package.
* There is absolutely no grip on the E-PM1, making it a bit hard to hold. You can essentially forget about holding the camera with just one hand.
* For some reason, Olympus leaves out a basic orientation sensor in their simpler models, which means that if you take photos in portrait mode, you have to manually rotate the photos on your computer. Not a big deal, but I can't understand why they would take out such a basic feature -- there's not a single mobile camera phone out there that doesn't include it, so it can hardly be a size (or cost) issue.
* I really miss at least *one* more programmable Fn button, or at least the freedom to assign *any* feature to the one that exists (the Rec button). For some reason, Olympus decided to omit certain essential features that you can assign, which means that some combinations of direct button access aren't possible.
* The video mode is crippled in the sense that it's no longer possible to re-focus while recording by e.g half pressing the shutter (or assigning the AEL/AFL lock button to focus). It's possible to program the AEL/AFL function (which can be assigned to the Rec button) to re-focus while in Manual mode when taking photos, but for some reason Olympus forgot to inherit that feature when switching to video mode. So, the only way to re-focus while recording a video is to give the control over entirely to the camera's hunting focus algorithms by switching over to continuous focus. This is a shame, really, and it makes the video feature much less useful to me.
* The screen, while higher resolution than on the E-P1, actually ends up being a disappointing experience because of its aspect ratio. This is a widescreen (16:9), while the E-P1 had a lower resolution 4:3 screen. Because both screens are labeled as 3" sized, the widescreen actually ends up being a lot smaller if you still shoot your photos using the sensor-native 4:3 aspect ratio. (This is the same thing that happened a decade ago when you compared an old 28" TV with the, then, new 28" widescreen TVs -- the latter ended up being a much smaller screen in most practical purposes.) If would be nice if Olympus gave you the option of only seeing 16:9 cropped version of the view when framing a photo, while still actually recording the full frame (this is admittedly possible if you shoot in RAW, which I never do).
Overall, by selling my old E-P1 and buying the new E-PM1, I ended up spending an additional ~220 USD, which, all in all, feels like a pretty cheap upgrade. The E-PM1 is better than the old E-P1 in many important respects (to me) such as overall size/weight, autofocus speed, and flash -- but it's admittedly a step back in some others. As an interim upgrade until the "next big thing" comes out, it feels like a good choice to me in the end. But if you own an E-P1/E-P2 and plan to hold on to your next camera upgrade for a long time, I would suggest you wait until sometime like a future E-P4 is announced, which may be a far more significant upgrade with (supposedly) a much improved sensor.